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Alumni Awards

Alumni Award Winner Dr. Matthew McLain

"It cannot be overstated how impressive this young scientist's research and publication record is..."

Dr. Matthew McClain has been selected as the Young Alumnus of the Year.

Matthew graduated from Cedarville University in 2012 and was part of the first geology graduating class. He received the Ray and Lois Strom Geology Award while a student here.

Among his many fond memories from Cedarville, his most impactful ones revolve around geology field trips to places like Death Valley and Anza-Borrego State Park. It was on these trips that his understanding of and love for God’s creation developed significantly. He also cites Cedarville’s program with helping him see how to think of earth history from both creationist and conventional perspectives, which has been invaluable in his research as a vertebrate paleontologist.

Since completing his bachelors at Cedarville, Matthew earned his Ph.D. from Loma Linda University, where he received the Ryckman Award for excellence in publication writing and the Lathrop Award. He also received the Geological Society of America Graduate Research Grant while doing his Ph.D. research on a dinosaur bone bed.

Matthew is currently an Associate Professor of Biology and Geology at The Master's University and an Adjunct Professor at Loma Linda University. At The Master's University, he runs the annual Creation Summits and Student Research Conferences. He has also been the president of the Creation Biology Society since 2018 and serves on the board of the Hanson Research Station, which manages the research done on dinosaur bones on a ranch in eastern Wyoming. Matthew conducted paleontological research that is presented at conferences, and he has published in both secular and creationist journals.

He also served as an area editor for the International Conference on Creationism in 2018, and as an editor for the Journal of Creation Theology and Science. He leads undergraduate students in research at The Master's University, and at Loma Linda University, he advises three PhD. students in their research in addition to serving on Ph.D. committees for other students.

Matthew has published 14 articles in peer-reviewed technical journals and has presented 45 abstracts at academic conferences.

It cannot be overstated how impressive this young scientist's research and publication record is remarkably impressive. Not only are his papers numerous, but he has managed to get them into "top-tier" places with respected co-authors. He has accomplished this in both the secular and creationist literature, which is no small feat. In particular, he has made significant contributions in the fields of dinosaur taphonomy.

Outside of geology, Matthew serves as youth pastor at Santa Clarita Baptist Church, where he also preaches and teaches regularly and leads teams that run a Creation Camp VBS for churches in other states in the summer.

Despite his youth, Matthew has already made enormous contributions to paleontology. He embodies all the characteristics and skills expected and hoped for of the geology alumni when the major was established at Cedarville in 2009.

Alumni Award Winner Dannah Gresh, outdoor portrait

"Dannah has represented the university and her Savior well with her many years of faithful service..."

Dannah Gresh has been selected as Cedarville University’s 2021 Alumna of the Year.

Dannah graduated from Cedarville in 1989 with a degree in organization communications. Her favorite memory of her time at Cedarville is the communal experience of chapel, although she didn’t realize at the time how much this daily drip of Truth would impact her heart. She spent much of her time at Cedarville serving as the yearbook editor, a role that trained her well for what she still does today. She loved the opportunity yearbook gave her to work with Mrs. Dixon and still considers her one of the greatest spiritual influences on her life. To this day Dannah seeks to mentor her team and interns the same way Mrs. Dixon discipled her.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl, a ministry that brings mothers and tween girls closer to each other and Jesus through live events at 80 to 90 cities each year, as well as online Bible studies, a podcast, and discipleship tools. Around 10,000 tweens, teens, and moms join Dannah for an online Bible study each year, and approximately 12,000 tween girls have made first-time decisions to surrender their lives to Jesus through True Girl’s ministry. True Girl has a Spanish branch of the ministry operating out of the Dominican Republic, and a team is being formed to provide True Girl ministry tools in South Africa. Dannah and her husband, Bob, have also introduced a similar ministry to fathers and sons, called Born to Be Brave.

Dannah is also co-host of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s “Revive Our Hearts” podcast, which reaches 63,000 women globally each year, encouraging them to experience freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

The author of nearly 30 books, Dannah’s literary works are widely known and loved and include book such as the best-selling “And the Bride Wore White,” “Lies Young Women Believe” (with Nancy Leigh DeMoss), and “Lies Girls Believe,” which received a 2020 Bronze Award from the Evangelical Publisher's Association. Her book sales total approximately 1.5 million. Her first Bible study, based on Habakkuk, released in 2020.

Together, Dannah and Bob co-founded Grace Prep, a new model in Christian education that emphasizes a discipleship approach to learning. The school has received several awards from the Association of Christian Schools International for innovation and excellence. 

Over the years, Dannah has been a favorite guest speaker in chapel and regularly recruits interns for her ministry from Cedarville. Dannah has represented the university and her Savior well with her many years of faithful service and her commitment to reaching young women with the Gospel.

Alumni Award Winners Dr. Deforia Lane speaking on stage

"Her service and love for others has flowed from her love for Christ and her desire to honor Him above everything."

Dr. Deforia Lane has been selected as Cedarville’s University’s 2021 Honorary Alumna of the Year.

Deforia earned a bachelor’s degree in voice from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and a Ph.D. in music education from Case Western Reserve University. She has served as a music therapist for more than 40 years, retiring as the Director of Art and Music Therapy for University Hospitals of Cleveland, but she still serves as a consultant today.

Since 1997, Deforia has served as a member of Cedarville’s Board of Trustees. Over the years she has also spoken in chapel and to student groups, guest taught in classes, mentored students, and collaborated with administrators. She says that Cedarville has deepened her commitment to the Lord and her awe at his amazing grace, and she has enjoyed every opportunity to serve here.

From a very young age, Deforia had a desire to help those in need, and asked God to allow her to make a difference for Him. Originally, she thought that would best happen if He made her an astrophysicist, scientist, a surgeon, or maybe a brilliant engineer. Instead, He placed in her a heart for music, and she has been serving Him with that gift ever since.

God took the performing skills she learned on the opera stage and allowed her to bless audiences of hospice and hospitalized patients, adults, and children with special needs, and those who live with chronic and mental illnesses. When she sings, she captivates a room. She uses her voice to calm, to assure, and to point people to the hope found only in Jesus Christ.  After decades of being a music therapist, she considers God's call on her life far greater than anything she could have imagined.

The list of Deforia’s accomplishments is long and varied. She has been invited to speak in 17 states and in countries all around the world. She was awarded the American Cancer Society's first grant to study the therapeutic effects of music on oncology patients and received Sesame Street's "Sunny Days Award,” which included the privilege of consulting with Sesame Street. Deforia created and taught the first course on Music Therapy at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. Her classes were packed and, of course, she made the students sing! She was also given an American Music Therapy Association's Lifetime Achievement Award and an Honorary Membership in the Oncology Nursing Society, the highest honor they confer. In 1993, she was asked by Zondervan to write her story, titled “Music as Medicine.”

Deforia is one of the most gracious and warm people you could ever meet. In every conversation, she finds a way to encourage the other person! She listens and observes carefully and provides meaningful, gracious feedback. Her service and love for others has flowed from her love for Christ and her desire to honor Him above everything.

In 2020, Cedarville University introduced the Dr. Deforia Lane Diversity Scholarship in her honor, ensuring that her legacy will continue at Cedarville for years to come as she is now an honorary alumna.